From the outside, the Mount Prospect, Ill., True Value hardware store looks a lot like any other True Value store. It’s only 2 years old, so the sign above the door appears extra bright red and white.
When you walk through the entrance, it still looks a lot like most of the Chicago-based co-op’s fashion-forward Destination True Value format stores. At 12,600 sq. ft., it’s a little bigger than most. The registers are ringing up front, and a racetrack is punctuated by 38 endcaps promoting product, as well as ideas for the home.
But this store is unique in the world. It’s the only company-owned True Value store, and its mission in life is to provide the co-op — and by extension, its members — insights into efficiency and productivity.
True Value CEO Lyle Heidemann recently guided visitors through the store. And there seems to be at least one story, or strategy, in every aisle. But it’s the big picture of the entire store that is most interesting to the folks at True Value headquarters.
For instance, take the six core hardware categories — the ones that are insulated from seasonal or calendar fluctuations. Heidemann identifies them as tools, electrical, plumbing, paint, automotive and decorative hardware. These areas represent about 65% of a hardware store’s business. (Lawn and garden and seasonal account for 25% typically, and the rest is made up of various niche businesses, he said.)
“What we’ve done here is reduced the lineal footage of the core day-in and day-out hardware business with the whole idea of testing to see whether we can get the same amount of business in 15% less space,” he said. “So the goal is to improve productivity by about 15%.”
Higher productivity gives the store owner options, Heidemann said. It makes smaller stores more marketable, it makes current stores more profitable, and it allows stores to reinvest their square footage into other categories. That last option is what True Value has done in Mount Prospect.
Here are some of the highlights of the tour:
Both sides of an aisle (a canyon, in True Value lingo) are dedicated to housewares. “Cleaning supplies is always among the top categories, and that’s about every we